Interop Recap - SD-WAN or Hybrid-WAN. What's in a name?

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Interop in 2015 was held as usual at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. There were few surprises or announcements, but a few trends were apparent. I wrote a few blog entries (What do I do with my 10-year old device? and Network Switches a Commodity? Not Really), but after giving my mind a rest, here are some observations on software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), or hybrid-WAN solutions that I saw.

There were many firms showing these systems that combine different networks, such as MPLS-based or even cellular networks with broadband Internet, to create a single (overlay) network that uses one or more underlying networks to optimize service levels based on load, application priorities, and network state.

Exhibiting companies at the conference offering this solution include Aryaka Networks, Cisco, CloudGenix, Ipanema Technologies (now part of InfoVista), and Riverbed. They join other firms such as Citrix, Silver Peak, Talari Networks, Viptela, and VeloCloud in this expanding group.

The name SD-WAN is a bit unfortunate since it combines firms that do WAN overlays along with those that do orchestration, like Glue Networks, into one category. Also curious is the fact that these technologies have been around for many years in different guises but the term SD-WAN recently seems to have taken over the mindshare since the term software-defined is trendy now.

Some people may wonder whether this is an application of software-defined networking (SDN), or perhaps a variation of WAN traffic management. In practice, the common use of this solution, where the term hybrid-WAN is the least ambiguous, is a combination of many well-known technologies, including:

  • Overlay networks (a form of network virtualization),
  • Path selection to route packets properly,
  • Combining multiple physical networks (including classic MPLS networks) into one virtual network,
  • Network automation to make all of this work together.

For example, end-users will find the reliability benefits of MPLS networks when they demand it, combined with the speed and low-cost of broadband Internet access for other uses.

Note: Products that focus on SD-WAN orchestration, thrown into the SD-WAN category, focus on deploying WANs, which is a problem that plagues many end-users due to the difficulty of managing numerous remote WAN locations. This is a different solution altogether but is potentially complementary.

There’s clearly a recognizable ROI in this SD-/hybrid-WAN networking solution, so I feel this product segment will continue to gain attention, no matter what you choose to call it.  

I'll share some of my other thoughts from Interop in an upcoming blog.

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Topics: Networking